Caterpillar 769 Dump Truck

Story by Bob Peterson
as seen in The Diecast Magazine, June 2009

In August of 1964, Jim Salisbury was a 20 year old kid just home from two years in the Army who unexpectedly found himself sitting behind the wheel of a brand new 769 Cat off highway dump truck.  

 Here's how he described that day:

A little over a week after getting back to the states I headed out to the quarry to see if the recruiter was right when he said my military experience would help me get a job when I got out.   I went to the office and after I completed the form to apply for a job the lady at the front desk asked me to wait while she showed it to the boss.  She came back a few minutes later followed by an older guy with a cup of coffee in one hand and my application in the other.

He walked over to me but the expression on his face had me thinking this wasn’t such a great idea. Pausing before he took a sip of coffee, he looked at me over the top of his cup and said, "Says here you think you can drive. ” I said, “Yessir, Spec 5, MOS 88M and licensed to drive anything and everything up to an M88 ARV." 

After another sip of coffee he said, "You can call me Ski.  If you really think you're as good as you say here then follow me out to the truck shop."  I didn't know what he had in mind but I wanted a job so I fell in a half-step behind him as he headed out the door.

When we came around the corner of the shop I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw a brand spanking new 769 sitting in the first bay.  Ski told me the Cat dealer tech had finished his pre-delivery checks and the only thing the truck needed was a test drive before it was "officially ours." 

I took a slow walk around the truck and when I came back to where Ski was standing he said, "If you want a job, get up there and show me I’m making the right decision."  Trust me, I didn’t have to be told twice and as soon as I was in the jump seat with my safety-belt buckled we were rolling.  I still remember the view from up there was incredible and the ride was almost as smooth as my newly acquired pickup truck.

About a quarter mile from the shop the tech stopped the truck and traded seats with me.  He then drilled me on backing and signaling to make sure I wasn't going to screw things up for everyone else when I got into the loading area.  That was followed by a qualifying drive that included about every foot of road in the quarry along with several more mock loading rehearsals. 

After a quick break for lunch I went back to the truck shop and the dealer tech went through the pre-start and end-of-shift inspection routines with me and our shop crew.  After one last chance to ask questions I was in the driver's seat and headed out to pick up my first load of rock.

The time required to get loaded out was minimal as a D10 tractor was pushing loose material down slope while a 988 wheel loader and a 245 shovel were working together to get trucks topped off.  I remember seeing the shovel operator wince when he dumped his bucket as he knew what those rocks were doing to that shiny new paint job.

I just shrugged and it was no more than a few minutes before I was climbing the haul road out of the pit and getting a chance to put that new 380 hp ABD 6 cylinder diesel to work.  Although the 28 tons in the bed on that first haul was well under capacity it made its presence known on the climb to the rim.  Even with a light load I was glad to have those newly designed Cat disc brakes holding things back when I broke over the top and started down to the crusher.

At the end of the day I had no idea how many trips I had made but the air cushion seat made me feel like I could drive that truck for another shift without taking a break. 

The only down side to my new job was getting some flack from drivers who were assigned to older trucks.  It ended when Ski heard about it and put out the word that anyone who wanted to start rotating with me would have to spend a year in the jungle first.

That truck was my only ride until 1979 when it was finally retired and replaced with a new Cat 783.  In that same time period I went through 5 pickups and 3 bikes.  Before I got a chance to make my bid to drive the new rig I was put in charge of driver safety and training and I worked in that position until I finally retired in 2004.

At my going away party all the drivers got together and gave me a die-cast scale model of a 769.  It was a great gift and when the grandkids showed up I was happy to let them play with it as it was a pretty rugged toy.

Then about a month ago one of the mechanics who used to help service my 769 told me I had to see the new model of the truck being made by Classic Construction Models.  My granddaughter had to help me find it on the internet but when the picture came up on the screen I said, "That’s my truck!"

At that moment I really thought someone had taken a picture of the new truck I had driven way back when and put it on the computer.  When it finally registered with me this was a scale model I couldn't believe all the detail.  Wheels, tires, engine, hand grabs, mirrors, lights and even the jump seat where I first sat in the truck.  Holy cow, it was all there.

Well, needless to say I now have one of the models on a shelf high enough to make the grandkids ask to see it but this one isn't going to get played with as only 2000 will ever be made.  I missed out on the 988 wheel loaders Classic made a while back but I’ve got a line on one with a guy who bought an extra for trading stock.  We’re wrestling over what my original 769 sales literature is worth but I’m sure we’ll strike a deal pretty soon.

These models have brought back a ton of great memories and I’ve told CCM I want one of their 245 shovel models as soon as it’s available.  Once they make a D10 tractor my collection of the machines I worked with way back then will be complete.

Collecting scale models of construction equipment isn't for everyone but I have to tell you, if you're going to collect them, there's nothing out there like these beauties from Classic Construction Models.

 **Bob Lawrence is the non de plume of Bob Peterson, the founder of Classic Construction Models.  Bob wrote this story to create a firsthand perspective of what it was like for someone who operated one of the real trucks.  Jim Salisbury was a boyhood friend of Bob's who dreamed of "driving big trucks" when he grew up but died in Vietnam before that dream could become real.


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